Academic journal article Literator: Journal of Literary Criticism, comparative linguistics and literary studies

Translating Traces: Deconstruction and the Practice of Translation

Academic journal article Literator: Journal of Literary Criticism, comparative linguistics and literary studies

Translating Traces: Deconstruction and the Practice of Translation

Article excerpt


Translating traces: Deconstruction and the practice of translation

In this article I attempt to show that deconstruction and its practices should not be read as intimations towards plurality or relativism in translation, but should rather be utilised as a powerful analytical tool, a way of reading and writing with heightened awareness. In order to arrive at this conclusion, I discuss differance and the play of the trace in the context of the cont(r)act between two texts that are in a relationship of translation. I further argue that plurality as contained in Dernda's differance is not a directive, but that the translator has to be aware of the existence of plurality and to take into account that the reader also participates in and contributes to this plurality.

The key to an application of Derrida's theory is shown to be situated in the process rather than in the product of translation, and this process has to move beyond a hierarchical opposition of "original" and translation. I conclude that difference becomes not an obstacle or barrier to translation, but specifically that which, in making something untranslatable, creates the need for translation.


Die vertaling van spore: dekonstruksie en die praktyk van vedaling

In hierdie artikel poog ek om te toon dat dekonstruksie en die gebruike daarvan nie gesien moet word as 'n oproep tot veelvoudige interpretasie of relativisme in vertaling nie, maar dat dit eerder ingespan moet word as 'n kragtige analitiese vaardigheid; 'n manier van lees en skryf met verdiepte aandag. Om tot hierdie gevolgtrekking te kom bespreek ek differance en die spel van spore in die konteks van die kont(r)ak tussen twee tekste wat in 'n verhouding van vertaling tot mekaar staan. Verder voer ek aan dat veelvoudigheid soos vervat in Derrida se differance, nie 'n voorskrif is nie, maar dat die vertaler bewus moet wees van die bestaan van veelvuldigheid en in ag behoort te neem dat die leser ook deelneem aan en bydra tot hierdie veelvuldigheid.

Die sleutel tot die toepassing van Derrida se teorie is gesetel in die proses eerder as die produk van vertaling, en hierdie proses moet verder gaan as die hierargiese teenstelling van "oorspronklike" en vertaling. Ek kom tot die slotsom dat differance nie 'n struikelblok vir vertaling is nie, maar dat dit eerder die behoefte vir vertaling daarstel deur onvertaalbaarheid te identifiseer.

1. Introduction

The primary aim of this article is to investigate the possibilities offered by deconstruction, and particularly the contributions of Jacques Derrida, for the practice of translation. Like Kathleen Davis's Deconstruction and translation (2001), this article will focus primarily on Derrida's contributions since Derrida is the one "who coined the term 'deconstruction' and who produced (and continues to produce) most of what have become its primary texts" (Davis, 2001:1). In addition, the importance of Derrida's other term, differance, to translation theory provides a useful angle into this self-questioning discourse.

Deconstruction destabilises a number of "safe" conceptions associated with translation theory. In the words of Koskinen (1994: 446), "by denying the existence of Truth, origin and center, deconstruction deprives us of the comfortable fallacy of living in a simple and understandable world. We lose security, but we gain endless possibilities, the unlimited play of meanings". (1) What has to be determined, however, is whether deconstruction actually contributes to the practice of translation. Does its questioning of conventional notions (such as equivalence and faithfulness) not render its insights so devastatingly relativist that the practising translator cannot afford to pay it more than a passing and slightly amused glance before returning to the serious task at hand?

The usefulness of deconstruction to the practice of translation has often been questioned due to its essentially philosophical nature. …

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